Awards | 2017-10-27

Heavyweight Accelerator May Help Singapore Fintech Punch Above its Weight

THE world’s largest startup accelerator Plug and Play hopes to expand its presence in Singapore, and plans to open an accelerator programme in the city-state by March 2018 to tap the fintech market here.

Plug and Play founder and CEO Saeed Amidi sees the Singapore model of plugging fintech solutions developed in the Republic for deployment in the Asean region as one that Abu Dhabi could emulate.

“We would love to do a Singapore fintech and insurtech hub,” Mr Amidi told The Business Times on the sidelines of the Fintech Abu Dhabi event this week. He hopes to set up a Plug and Play programme with five banks and five insurance companies, and “hopefully”

with Singapore’s Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Plug and Play signed a deal with Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) this week to launch a startup acceleration programme in Abu Dhabi that is focused on fintech. The plan is to groom fintech players that may create proven technologies that could be expanded into all of the Middle East.

“They could have a beachhead here,” he told reporters, noting that Abu Dhabi could become a hub for regional startups. This would be similar to how Singapore has developed itself into a hub for Southeast Asia, he said. “UAE is small but you could turn it into a competitive advantage,”

added Mr Amidi, an early investor in PayPal, Dropbox and Lending Club.

Singapore’s Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and ADGM have an existing fintech collaboration agreement. Alongside this, four fintech firms linked to Singapore participated in Fintech Abu Dhabi’s Innovation Challenge this week, with Singapore’s Silent Eight being one of the two winners.

Silent Eight will represent ADGM during Singapore Fintech Festival’s Demo Day, where similar to Fintech Abu Dhabi’s Innovation Challenge, fintechs pit themselves against fellow competitors for prize money.

Silent Eight’s chief revenue officer Julia Markiewic said the fintech’s service can help banks in the Middle East region to combat risks of money laundering. Silent Eight uses artificial intelligence (AI) to try to build a better system for anti-money laundering.

“The Middle East is home to some of the world’s top financial centres, fastest growing economies, most diverse populations in addition to being in the middle of several conflict hotspots. This particular combination is highly attractive to would-be money launderers, placing a greater burden on banks to meet their compliance obligations,”

she said.

Other Singapore fintechs that participated in the Innovation Challenge are also trying to address gaps in the Middle East market. They include Pivot – a digital investment tool that uses some form of AI to improve investment decisions and help boost savings.

Victor Lye, who runs Pivot, said it can address challenges in the Middle East, where migrant workers do not have retirement savings, and instead remit most of what they earn home for spending. Almost US$90 billion is remitted each year from the region.

“If only they could save a little for the long term in a risk controlled way, without trading and speculation,”

said Mr Lye.

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